Riding the Rails

One of the flagship rails-to-trails bike paths is The Path of the Hiawatha BN railroad cut into the side of mountains asking the Idaho/Montana border. While only fifteen miles in length, it is a magnet for bikers due to the many high trestles and tunnels, the longest stretching 1.66 miles. 

This ride was on my bucket list and necessitated a southward detour from Glacier NP. That turned out to be a good plan as I returned to Eureka, near the Canadian border, then turned south along the Kootenai River. The road was a winding, scenic and traffic-less ride down to Libby dam. I camped and fished at Dunn Creek before picking my way to St. Regis, the flyfishing capital of the northwest, if you believe the sign in town. I did catch a really nice trout within a stone’s throw of the interstate, wading in ice-cold water

St Regis is only thirty freeway miles to the Path of the Hiawatha trailhead. 

The ride from this end is fifteen miles, downhill, at a consistent 2% grade and 1000 feet of elevation change. The trail surface is a rough gravel, perfect for my Fargo.  The longest tunnel faces you immediately from this portal. The tunnel is straight, you can see a speck of light in the far distance. Headlights and lamps are a must, maybe a warm shirt as the temperature drops dramatically. and, there is cool dripping water. Pretty cool, literally and figuratively. Especially as the tunnel is named after St Paul…

The views of the mountains and trestles are awe inspiring. The trestles smelled of creosote which mixed with the scent of pines.

The ride down was easy, not even breaking a sweat at fifteen miles an hour. There were lots of casual cyclists and families with trailers. 

There is a ten dollar trail fee to support the trail upkeep. You can also pay nine dollars to get shuttled back to the top. I made the turn at the bottom, eschewing the easy way back. It was more like ten miles an hour back, and hot, good thing I filled my two liter bladder with water.
The reward is a cool waterfall at the far entrance to the long tunnel.

I packed the bike on the bike and headed towards Coeur D’Alene, taking the scenic Lake Coeur D’Alene byway. A winding road overlooking the lake. Super motorcycle riding. All in all, a really nice day, fishing, bicycling and riding.

Now, I’m calculating the miles and routes to Seattle, taking highway 20 across Washington to maximize the scenery. The weather forecast looks warm and dry. The adventure continues…


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